11-07-2008, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
| | Article on MMA Underdogs
Thought some people might find it interesting/agreeable.
Fear the Underdog: A Discussion of the Versatility of Mixed Martial Arts |
Mixed martial arts, perhaps more than any other sport affords the title of the term “live underdog” to many fighters who would seemingly be outclassed—on paper—by their more internationally recognized opponent on any given night.
Don’t believe it? Try on any one of the following examples for size: Matt Serra’s utter annihilation of a man many consider to be one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the sport at present in Georges St-Pierre on April 7,2007 in a fight in which Serra was an 11-1 betting underdog; no less than two weeks later Gabriele “Napao” Gonzaga mentally replaced the head of—at the time—one of the most feared heavyweight strikers in the world with a heavy bag when his brutal head kick knockout of Pride superstar Mirco “Cro Cop” Filipovic sent a roar rippling through the Manchester crowd that sounded even louder amid the shocked silence of an equal number of others who couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed.
There are countless examples in MMA of the supposed underdog leaping into the limelight at the expense of their broken and distraught would-be destroyers, many of whom are left reeling in a confused, half-dazed stupor—partially the result of the concussive impacts they have sustained, but also partially due to their own shock and disappointment at their performance—long after they leave the arena.
It is poignant to point out that—while MMA fans have come to expect the unexpected—we are guilty of jumping on the bandwagons of some of these underdogs after they have overcome what was before thought of as insurmountable odds. Many even go so far as to claim that these upsets are not as great as the media would have us believe, that, in some cases, they were to be expected. Again referring to the case of one Gabriele Gonzaga, we can see that the very fans that salivated at the thought of the Brazilian being added to the impressive highlight reel of one of the sports former greats went on to discount reigning heavyweight champion Randy Couture against the very same man only four months later.
Gonzaga was thoroughly dismantled by Couture in their title match in August of 2007 at UFC 74, and he met a similar—albeit far less bloody—affair at the hands of fellow countrymen Fabricio Werdum at the beginning of this year at UFC 80 in January. Gonzaga has since rebounded with a first round submission of Justin McCully in July and looks to renew his stock in the UFC’s lacking heavyweight division against Josh Hendricks on November 15 th, however, the point remains the same.
Why is it that these MMA underdogs have had—and will continue to have, mark my words—such a better time of it than their counterparts in boxing, kickboxing, and other highly-competitive sports?
Sometimes-true clichés often come to mind as (some) fighters and fans, promoters and various media outlets cry “lucky punch!” or deny an underdog the honor of his victory by blaming his brutal dismantling, perfect timing, or solid game-planning tactics on chance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While there is a certain element of chance going into any fight, the same degree of chance—sometimes higher—can be found in almost every major televised sport on the planet. In the end, there is little separating a knockout head kick with a rookie’s home run. Is it likely to happen again? Maybe not with the same two fighters, and maybe not with the same pairing of rookie batter and veteran pitcher, but rest assured, it will happen in one form or another.
Another equally ridiculous claim often made by some opponents of the sport as a whole is that there is little in the way of true skill possessed by either athlete going into any given MMA contest. Not only would I vehemently argue against this sentiment, but I would also go so far as to confidently say that it is a very abundance of skill, competent strategizing, and physical as well as mental preparation that lead to such shocking, mostly unforeseen results.
In MMA, versatility, not toughness, is the name of the game (though the latter wouldn’t hurt) and today’s fighters possess more than enough of both to make anything happen on any given night. Unlike boxing, MMA is the sport of fighting—or as close to it as you can get and still have state-imposed rules and regulations—and as such, the overused-yet no less verifiable paradox comes to mind; so many ways to win, so many ways to lose.
In mixed martial arts especially, keep an eye on the underdog. The labeled “favorites”—the smarts ones anyways—always do.
By Steven T. Kelliher
ProFighting-fans.com Staff Writer